Support The Ref week: Ryan Atkin has had 'no issues' since coming out
As part of Support The Ref week, referee Atkin speaks exclusively to Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 29/03/18 12:51pm
Referee Ryan Atkin says he has had no issues after becoming the first publicly 'out' professional official in football in the UK.
As part of Support The Ref week on Sky Sports, Atkin has spoken openly about coming out publicly in August 2017, and revealed how he has received support from all corners of the game since, including players themselves.
Atkin is working on the Panel List (Level 2b) this season, operating as fourth official in EFL and National League fixtures and taking charge of games himself in the National League North and South.
Support The Ref week
Sky Sports will once again be focusing on the role of the officials in football in our Support The Ref week
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports, Atkin said: "I've actually had no issues. I think one of the reasons is because I'm a referee, and we are to be seen and not heard, we're not celebrities. I think that is one of the key elements as to why myself, coming out as LGBT and trying to promote the LGBT community within football, has been fantastic so far.
"Obviously people are aware, I've had people in clubs come up to me and talk about it because they've seen it in the press, but they've never judged me on who I am, and I think that's one of the great things about it. I've had loads of support, not just from the FA, the PGMOL, Premier League and EFL, but also from my colleagues.
"It has been fantastic to receive messages from people, from grassroots, all the way up to the Premier League, receiving individual messages, just showing their support and actually saying: 'It doesn't matter'. So for myself, it has been a great journey so far.
"What's really nice is to get messages from footballers. It's a real taboo subject for players to even talk about LGBT."
Atkin, however, feels more can still be done to raise awareness across football of anti-LGBT language and behaviour that makes gay, bi and trans people feel unwelcome and unsafe.
Atkin suggests that an audible announcement before kick-off, reminding those in the stadium about their use of language, would go a long way.
"I think any industry can always do more. I was at the Futsal finals, and there was an announcement just before kick-off that said homophobic and racist comments would not be tolerated at any UEFA game.
"Something so small, which is quite a positive gesture, I think could be brought into the professional leagues and clubs from next season. It would go some way to making people aware of their surroundings and what they're saying."
As part of Support The Ref week, a survey by the FA and Sky Sports News found that 91 per cent of grassroots refs believe the apparent lack of respect for their colleagues in the elite game is a "big or fairly big problem" for them, and the behaviour towards them.
Atkin, however, believes attitudes towards referees, in general, are changing, and highlights how good decisions made by officials are increasingly in the spotlight.
"I think one of the key elements for me is when you watch Match of the Day or programmes of the like, and see that pundits are now talking about good decisions by a referee, not always the opinionated decisions.
"It's key to show the positives, what we're doing correctly, not always the negatives. When you go out on the field of play, people are more willing to have a conversation with you about a decision and listen to your explanation."
Click here to learn more about Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, which is supported by Sky Sports as part of TeamPride.
Follow the referee debate all week on SSN and on our digital platforms at www.skysports.com/supporttheref